Monday, August 29, 2022

A recent place name mystery: J G Island

J G Island outlined in red.
Does anyone know what the "J G" means in the placename "J G Island Beach?" The name refers to the "island" (really a peninsula) that was created next to the Santa Ana River's mouth in Huntington Beach around 1990 when the Talbert Channel outlet was rerouted. Most of the "island" is taken up by a Least Tern Preserve. This may be recent enough that someone out there will have a firsthand account of how it got the name "J G Island." 

For what it's worth, earlier names for the beach just north of the current river outlet (near Brookhurst) include Santiago, Celery, and my favorite: Nago. The beach there was particularly popular with local Japanese families in the early 20th Century.

Update, 4/21/2023: Drew Griffiths suggests that "JG" may stand for "Junior Guards," as in the popular Huntington State Beach Junior Lifeguards program. He was part of that program in the 1990s and says that area of the beach is "where we were based until [we] moved near the Newland station. If I remember correctly the area was called JG Island back then and to get us kids' attention the instructors would yell things like 'JG’s line up!'" So that's one distinct possibility! Still awaiting some kind of official documentation, but it's the best clue so far.

Friday, August 19, 2022

A Lost Place Name: Cañada del Rodeo

Detail from a sligtly wonky 1912 oil map. (Courtesy Paul Spitzzeri)

Cañada del Rodeo (a.k.a. Rodeo Canyon) was an early name for a portion of or offshoot of Brea Canyon in the Puente Hills, bridging Orange and Los Angeles counties. The name Cañada del Rodeo appears on assorted mining maps and in surface water reports beginning at least as early as 1898 until at least 1917. The anglicized Rodeo Canyon name continued in use until at least 1946. This area was generally considered part of the Fullerton oil fields.  

"At the head of Rodeo Canyon, close to the divide, are several large granite boulders, which have weathered out of the sandstone," wrote Walter A. English, in Geology and Oil Resources of the Puente Hills Region, Southern California -- a 1926 USGS bulletin. "One of them is 10 feet in diameter. There are perhaps half a dozen bolders, all told. No small boulders or pebbles are clustered around the few large blocks, and the sandstone close to the boulders is not noticably different from the fine yellow sandstone elsewhere in the formation."

Map filed with Los Angeles County (DM6298-96)
In Parks, Playgrounds and Beaches for the Los Angeles Region (1930) the famed Olmstead Brothers and Harland Bartholomew & Assoc. describe "the head of Rodeo Canyon" being "two miles east of Brea Canyon Road, where the route turns north, a rugged and picturesque gorge is encountered that will involve heavy construction."

There was both a Rodeo Oil Co. and a Rodeo Land & Water Co. operating in the Los Angeles area during the early years of the 20th century, which might suggest a couple possible sources for the canyon's name. But no direct connections have yet been made. 

Historian Paul Spitzzeri offers another educated guess: "“Rodeo” [also] means “detour,” so a sharp change in the topography of a canyon may be our best clue [to the source of  the canyon's name].  As the canyon and creek make the abrupt westward turn toward where Birch had his rich oil property, it could well be how this feature got its moniker." 

If you know anything definitive about the source of this old place name (or even have a good clue or lead), please drop me a line.